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Dena El Saffar, Salaam

Photo of Dena El Saffar, Salaamcourtesy of the artist

How would you describe your music?

I mostly play Middle Eastern music, but I have a degree in classical music, which I also play (and teach). Plus I play the blues, rock and a little old time/blue grass.

What is your role in your band? In the studio? In business or marketing decisions?

I am the band leader for Salaam, I create all of the music. I share studio and business/marketing decisions.

Describe your gear.

Most of my gear is my instruments, though I do bring a condenser mic with me, and I own a PA. My house is crammed full of musical instruments from all over the world; Hammond M3 organ, 3 drum sets (my husbands) a harp, and lots of Hand drums.

Related Themes: Gear

Do you think being a woman and a musician is different from being a man and a musician? If so, how? Was there a moment that made a difference clear to you?

I never felt different playing music and being a woman. However, many men (and some women) make a big deal out of it. When I was a classical player, I never experienced any sexism, but now that I am a freelancer and play in bands, I miss the company of other women performers, as I am often the only woman on stage.

Related Themes: Behind The Music

Do you see differences between generations of women musicians?

Not really. Music performance gives women confidence. If I look back through the years, I can think of many confident, competent women who were making music as a profession, both in this country and in the Middle East.

Related Themes: Off The Clock

Did anyone ever give you any valuable advice about making your way in the music industry? What advice would you give to a woman musician just starting out?

I wish! I feel like I have learned everything the hard way. As a music major, all the instruction I received was for refining my performance, never about how to survive in the business of music. Luckily, I have been helped through by many musical comrades; we all learned the ropes together. My advice to a woman musician just starting out is to give it her best, practice alot, and be undeniably good; don't sell herself short, and PLEASE don't undercut the market by playing for cheap to free all the time!!!

Related Themes: Advice

Why did you choose to play the instrument you play?

I couldn't stop talking and thinking about the violin as a kid. Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to learn starting in 2nd grade.

Related Themes: The First Time